EL CENTRO — The Higher Education and Adult Learning (HEAL) in-person parent night at IV Mall Thursday, May 18, brought more than just parents in to speak to college outreach representatives. Students with parents visiting each booth, actively engaged with prospective colleges and inquired what each had to offer.

The purpose of the event was to create a school-to-college pipeline to help students achieve higher education throughout the Valley.

"This is Higher Education Week Two which is specifically for juniors so they will see the college and university representatives twice. They will see them their junior year, and they'll see them their senior year," said Elizabeth Cardenas, HEAL's K12 Pathway coordinator who gave details of HEAL's programs. 

HEAL is a department within the Imperial County Office of Education (ICOE) that seeks to provide information on higher education resources and helps embolden a “college-going culture in the Imperial County.” 

Cardenas explained that her department makes rounds to all schools in the Imperial Valley. Next on their list are Imperial and Holtville high schools.

"We do have representations from all the systems of education … And we really want to make sure that we give students an opportunity to view different systems," said Cardenas, also mentioning that their virtual parents’ night had "119 parents registered" for their online event held the day prior.

"We do this twice a year, we do it in the spring for juniors (tonight's event), as they begin to plan what schools they might be interested in, and then we come back in the fall and we then have all these universities come back for the same students," said Coordinator Todd Evangelist. 

Evangelist advised students to treat college and university representatives almost like one would a job interview. 

"I tell students all the time, it's almost like talking to the professor who's writing the test,” said Evangelist. 

"I think it's an excellent exposition because they take us by the hand, they help us receive what opportunities (our kids) have for education. They all have the demeanor that they're here to help … And all of them have a positive attitude, they're helpful, they say 'we'll help, don't worry, come apply, you're going to have great opportunities'that, that gives us comfort," said Javier Medina who was happy to see his daughter engaged with the college representatives.

"I like that they give us the brochures and information that helps us make the choice that's best for us," said Frida, a Calexico High School student. 

Any parents or students wanting to learn about HEAL's programs can go to icoe.org/services/student-services/higher-education-and-adult-learning for more information.

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